Implementation of sustainability in global industrial supply chain networks: a system innovation perspective

H.W.M. van Bommel

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    This paper presents an overview of the recent literature about the implementation of sustainability in global product (supply) chains and industrial networks and addresses a possible research agenda.
    The notion that improvement of the sustainability aspects related to production and consumption of products (and services) can only be achieved by integrating these aspects in the different phases of the life cycle has widely been recognized. Many different stakeholders stimulate companies more and more to manage sustainability throughout the whole supply chain of their products.
    This practice is in literature found as the “greening” of supply chain management (GSCM). A lot of research has been published on the question why “greening” takes place and which practices are found. How the process of “greening” takes place related to the different aspects and characteristics off the specific chains is less documented. Literature was found mainly from environmental perspective but in recent years more publications are found from a more social (corporate social responsibility) and business (logistics, operation management) perspective.
    As the economy develops from an international economy towards a global economy the question rises how this influences the implementation of sustainability in these global supply chains. The World Bank concluded that “the “existing” system of implementation of CSR in global supply chains may be reaching its limits and a new approach is needed. The current practices are based on a series of ad hoc and isolated decisions and therefore collaboration and a systematic approach are lacking.
    Implementation of sustainability needs understanding the systems used for managing supply chains and networks. Systems developed to deliver products in time, of the right quality and at the lowest price. Different supply chain management theories, methods and concepts are found in literature in relation to sustainability. The awareness that supply chains are in reality not chains but complex networks is increasing and therefore chains and networks theories are combined in so-called netchain theories.
    The implementation process can be seen as a process of system-innovation and research based on innovation theories might be very useful to make us better understand the complex processes related with the implementation of sustainability in supply chain networks.
    These developments were the reason to start a PhD research that will describe and analyze the process of implementation of sustainability in global industrial supply chain networks from an innovation perspective. Besides a literature review the research will contain an empirical case study that is focusing on the textile sector. This sector is selected because it is a very good example of a global industrial supply chain network, many sustainability aspects are relevant and a lot of implementation activities related to sustainability are put into action in this sector.
    A conceptual framework for the research of innovation in chains and networks will be used to analyze the processes from a system innovation perspective.
    The empirical research will analyze the processes in the textile chain and network from both the Asian and the European side including the interaction between them.
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages9
    Publication statusPublished - 26 Jun 2008
    Event15th Greening of Industry Network Conference, GIN 2008: Facilitating Sustainable Innovations - Leeuwarden, Netherlands
    Duration: 26 Jun 200828 Jun 2008
    Conference number: 15


    Conference15th Greening of Industry Network Conference, GIN 2008
    Abbreviated titleGIN


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